Kline v. Ford Motor Co., Inc., s. 74-1317

Decision Date22 September 1975
Docket NumberNos. 74-1317,74-1397,s. 74-1317
Citation523 F.2d 1067
PartiesRoberta KLINE, as Administratrix of the Estate of Karen Kline, Deceased, Appellant, v. FORD MOTOR CO., INC., Appellee. Jacqueline SELBY, Appellant, v. FORD MOTOR CO., INC., Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Before CHAMBERS and HUFSTEDLER, Circuit Judges, and FITZGERALD, * District Judge.


Karen Kline ("Karen") and Jacqueline Selby ("Jacqueline") brought these consolidated personal injury actions against Ford Motor Company ("Ford") claiming that design deficiencies in the accelerator linkage system and the steering wheel lock mechanism in the Ford Pinto that Karen was driving and in which Jacqueline was riding caused Karen to lose control of the car resulting in the single-car crash that injured both of them. While the case was pending on appeal, Karen died from her injuries and her mother as administratrix of her estate has been substituted in her place as appellant. This diversity case was tried to a jury on the sole theory of strict liability in tort. At the close of plaintiffs' case in chief, the district court granted Ford's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the ground that plaintiffs had failed to prove any causal connection between the crash and the claimed design defects. The issues on appeal are: (1) Was the evidence connecting the design defects to the accident sufficient to require submission of the liability issue to the jury? (2) Did the district court err in refusing to permit Jacqueline to testify about the events immediately before the accident on the ground that she was incompetent to testify to those events because her memory of them had vanished before her recollection was restored under hypnosis? (3) Did the district court err in refusing to permit one of plaintiffs' expert witnesses to express his opinion about a causal connection between the defects and the accident?

The accident happened in the very early morning of October 31, 1970. Karen was driving the Pinto which had been purchased new about 30 days before the accident. At the time of the accident, the odometer registered 2653 miles. Karen, then 18 and Jacqueline, then 21, were driving home on the Pomona Freeway. A truck driver, Paul Cave, saw the Pinto pass him going about 50 to 60 miles per hour. When the Pinto was approximately 150 feet in front of him in the number 2 lane, the car turned and went straight for the side of the embankment. The vehicle went over the embankment and crashed into a fence about 65 feet from the roadway. Smith, a highway patrol officer, reached the scene within minutes of the accident. There were no skid marks noted.

Evidence was introduced, which if credited by the jury, would have supported findings that, at the time of the accident, the accelerator linkage system was capable of sticking in a depressed, open-throttle condition and that the steering wheel locking mechanism was capable of being activated and placed in a locked position independently of the position of the 4-speed manual transmission after the ignition had been turned off. The plaintiffs' problem was how to connect these deficiencies with the accident. The theory was that while Karen was driving along the freeway, the accelerator-carburetor control system failed to return from the depressed position and the vehicle continued to accelerate. Karen tried to turn off the engine and, in the process, her knee accidentally activated the steering column locking assembly, thereby locking the wheels.

Karen could not testify. She sustained severe head injuries and was in a coma from which she never revived before her death. Jacqueline suffered retrograde amnesia from her injuries. When her deposition was taken before the first trial, she could remember nothing about the accident or the events shortly before the accident. In the interim after her deposition and before trial, she had undergone hypnosis at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center under the supervision of a psychologist, Dr. Leonard Ollinger. She testified that the session of hypnosis revived her memory and she testified to these events: The Pinto after entering the freeway was going upgrade requiring...

To continue reading

Request your trial
45 cases
  • People v. Shirley
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • March 11, 1982
    ...8 Or.App. 1, 492 P.2d 312, 315; Wyller v. Fairchild Hiller Corporation (9th Cir. 1974) 503 F.2d 506, 509-510; Kline v. Ford Motor Co., Inc. (9th Cir. 1975) 523 F.2d 1067, 1069-1070; State v. McQueen (1978) 295 N.C. 96, 244 S.E.2d 414, 427; Clark v. State (Fla.App.1979) 379 So.2d 372, As the......
  • State v. Martin
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • June 7, 1984
    ...Circuit, per Wright, J.: We have held that the fact of hypnosis affects credibility but not admissibility. Kline v. Ford Motor Company, Inc., 523 F.2d 1067, 1069 (9th Cir.1975); Wyller v. Fairchild Hiller Corp., 503 F.2d 506, 509 (9th Other courts considering this problem in the context of ......
  • State v. Collins
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 8, 1983
    ...466 N.Y.S.2d at 262, 453 N.E.2d at 491. In Adams, 581 F.2d 193, the court relied upon its prior decisions in Kline v. Ford Motor Co., Inc., 523 F.2d 1067, 1069 (9th Cir.1975), and Wyller v. Fairchild Hiller Corp., 503 F.2d 506, 509 (9th Cir.1974), both of which arose in a civil context; upo......
  • Burral v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • February 12, 1999
    ...it to testimony refreshed or revived by more traditional methods, such as reviewing a particular document. See Kline v. Ford Motor Co., Inc., 523 F.2d 1067, 1070 (9th Cir.1975); Clark v. State, 379 So.2d 372 (Fla.App.1979). The earlier opinions in this category did not treat hypnosis as a s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Memory Restored or Confabulated by Hypnosis-is it Competent?
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 6-03, March 1983
    • Invalid date
    ...cases have been found dealing directly with the issue of hypnosis to refresh and to afford witness testimony: Kline v. Ford Motor Co., 523 F.2d 1067 (9th Cir. 1975); Wyller v. Fairchild Hiller Corp., 503 F.2d 506 (9th Cir. 1974); Connolly v. Farmer, 484 F.2d 456 (5th Cir. 1973); Lemieux v. ......
  • Challenging the Use of Hypnotically Induced Evidence
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 9-6, June 1980
    • Invalid date
    ...at 306. 11. 8 Ore. App. 1, 492 P.2d 312 (1971). 12. Supra note 9. 13. 503 F.2d 506 (9th Cir., 1974); see also Kline v. Ford Motor Co., 523 F.2d 1067 (9th Cir., 1975). 14. See Rule 612 of the Colorado Rules of Evidence. 15. 411 F.2d 825 (2nd Cir., 1969). 16. Id. at 828. 17. Id. at 830, 831. ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT